Search Results for: podcasting

Podcasting: 60 seconds to save the world

Outline of task

Above, the fourth of the tasks I suggested in my talk at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference on February 7th.

One of the ways in which I believe that we're getting technology wrong in language teaching is to fail to progress beyond our own use of technology as a word processor; and one of the simple ways we could start to get it right would be to have our learners turn their mobile phones on and start using them for productive language learning tasks.

This task requires them to do just that with Spreaker being an excellent little app to enable them to rehearse and record audio.

In groups of 3-4, they need to:

  • Brainstorm and come up with an idea that would make a difference to the environment and/or climate change, one that could actually be put into practice in your school
  • Rehearse exactly what they are going to say, in class, getting it down to exactly 58-60 seconds,  and not a second longer
  • Record it (and if necessary re-record it), something which is probably — because of the noise — best done somewhere quiet, outside class time
  • Post the finished recording where the rest of the class can listen to it (Edmodo or a class blog are great alternatives), again something which can be done outside class
  • Comment on the recordings made by the other groups (to get the most language out of the task, a vital stage, missing from my slide, above).

Note that, though you might want to try out the technology involved first for yourself, as the teacher your job is to provide the language, including helping with pronunciation and intonation, as well as vocabulary, not to provide technical support.

You want to do the former in class, which will reduce the amount of subsequent correction that will be required, and leave any technical help required up to the learners. Believe me, they will be able to provide it!

A nice simple alternative to Spreaker and audio would be to use PowerPoint (or Prezi) and, with a webcam, which would give your learners video, though I'd recommend keeping it to three slides, and insisting on that maximum of 60 seconds.

Acknowledgements The idea came from the excellent BBC podcast Forum: 60 Second Idea to Improve the World, one that is well worth both you and your learners subscribing to.

Thanks also to Kate who, as ever, was willing to try the idea out and to my PodcastHERs group, who had so much fun doing something along these lines as a long-term project.

Podcasting 101: More complex tasks

In a previous post, I suggested some tasks for getting started with podcasting. Here, also from my recent session at our Conference, are a couple that are a little more complex…

Role play and podcasting make a great combination, and not everyone needs to be recording all the time

Particularly with adults, role playing the sort of situations that arise at work (job interviews, telephone calls, asking for a pay rise…) makes a great subject for podcasting — apart from anything else as they can then be played back for comments and an improved, language-enhanced second performance.

The feedback doesn't have to come from the teacher. What I find works well is to have people (C and D, above) in non-recording roles, possibly with a checklist (eg. the one in the yellow box, above) for peer feedback.

Again, as I've suggested previously, it's the rehearsal, the feedback and the repeat performance — not the actual recording — that really interests us as language teachers.

Getting creative with podcasting

We can get more creative with role play and podcasting by having learners storyboard four connected episodes that go together to make up a coherent story, as outlined above.

As well as any rehearsal, there are so many opportunities for language practice in storyboarding before anyone goes anywhere near a recording device. It goes without saying, of course, that such things need to be done in English for full advantage to be taken of them (which can sometimes be difficult when learners get excited about such things).

If such stories are being posted on a blog, a certain amount of "setting the scene" text will help keep the story coherent.

And finally…
In the next and final post in this series, I'll look at a couple of ideas for a regular podcasting program.

Podcasting 101: Tasks for getting started

Amazing moments: an easy task for getting started

One of the few difficulties to be overcome when you start podcasting with a class is the learners' reluctance to be recorded — because they're initially horrified to discover that they sound like that!

To overcome the problem, I can highly recommend the following, apart from anything else as it's super adaptable to just about any language point you want to practise. In my talk at our recent conference, I suggested "Amazing moments" as the theme.


  1. Have the learners write down a couple of the most amazing moments in their lives (the birth of a child, visiting Thailand, Barça winning the Champions…), to be described in a single sentence
  2. Pick a director (to boss people around!) and a sound technician (to operate the technology)
  3. Get the director to sort out 6-8 people who have interesting "amazing moments" (one moment each)
  4. Fire the director (seriously!) if s/he doesn't do a good job
  5. Rehearse, with the people saying (eg) "The birth of my daughter" (etc), with a view to recording it all in a single take
  6. Re-rehearse (because it's rehearsal that matters!)
  7. Record
  8. Upload to share and comment (for which I've suggested Blogger or Edmodo)

It works apart from anything else as people have to say very little (a single sentence) and because it's a collective effort, with only a very little of each learner on the recording.

The director and the sound person are important: you get more language out of podcasting if there's discussion of what has to be done, etc. If you did have anyone who really did not want to be recorded, they can also take on one of those "non-recorded" roles.

Possible adaptations

  • What learners like/dislike
  • What they had for breakfast
  • What's wrong with school
  • Etc

You could obviously get higher level learners to say a lot more, but even there — initially — I'd recommend getting over that first shyness.

I'll come back to more complex, more demanding tasks in the next post.

NOTE A task like this will obviously work best if you have a digital voice recorder or a smart phone to do the recording.

Podcasting 101: The importance of rehearsal

In the audio, above, something that was recording during my podcasting session at the recent IH Barcelona ELT Conference.

The task, really designed for low level young learners involves a series of 6 or more people each picking up on what the last person said. For example:

  1. My name's Pablo, and I like tigers…
  2. Tigers go "Grrrrrr!" My name is Maria and I like cows.
  3. Cows go "Moooo!". My name's Belen and I like birds.
  4. Etc.

We then get back to the first person (Pablo, in the example, above) who finishes by picking up on the animal the last person mentions. Applause optional if they do it quickly and faultlessly!

In the session, under pressure of time, what we didn't do is rehearse this one sufficiently, as you will hear in the recording.

Rehearsal is important for a number of reasons:

  • The more we rehearse, the better the performance will be
  • The more we rehearse, the fewer recordings we have to make (and the language practice and learning is in the rehearsal, not the recording)
  • The better the performance, the less need to edit the recording

One of the great things about podcasting with learners is that they will happily repeat tasks (brilliant for language learning!) because they want it to be as good as possible (also brilliant!).

Although above I've suggested the task for children, in fact I've tried the same task with adults. The language required for the task may be way below their level but if we appoint a learner to direct, we can get a lot more language out of it

The task is a good one for overcoming the potential embarrassment about hearing one's own voice — something you may well have to overcome when you start podcasting with a class.

Note The recording was made on a hand-held digital voice recorder and uploaded to SoundCloud.

Podcasting 101: Mobile podcasting

You can podcast with no more than a computer and headset (1), but a handheld digital voice recorder (2) or a smartphone and suitable app (3) have the advantage that you can take them more easily wherever you want to go.

Computer and a headset
Probably the most common way people podcast.

If you're using a computer room, podcasting can get real noisy, with the background noise all getting picked up in the recordings. Because of that it's great if your learners either have a quiet time do the recording (right before or after class, with no one else in the room, is one possibility), or else do the recording at home.

What you don't want to do is to have four or five groups recording at the same time. I'll come back to how to organise podcasting tasks in a later post.

Cost: in Spain, around €25 for a fairly decent plug-and-play USB headset.

A digital voice recorder
The huge advantage of a voice recorder is, of course, that you're not tied to the fixed location of a computer; and, even if you're using a more portable tablet, it's so much easier to point the device at your speaker, or gather up to half a dozen or more people around it than it is to pass round a headset.

Cost: from around €35-50 for an mp3 recorder [the one used in the conference session was an Olympus VN-712PC, currently 47 GBP from].

A mobile app
Of course if your learners have smartphones then you (and they!) can download an app which turns their phone into great podcasting device at no extra expense and with the further advantage that you then have lots of devices in your classroom rather than having to wait in turn for the device to come round.

What you are then doing is using the phone to record, and then storing and sharing the recording online.

I can recommend both SoundCloud and AudioBoo — despite the fact that I can't run either or them on my own current mobile (a Samsung Galaxy Ace).

To avoid the background noise problem, as people get even more excited about podcasting, a quiet corner in the corridor is one solution.

With SoundCloud you'll want to set up an account and can of course use the same account both from a computer and from a mobile phone.

For AudioBoo you have a video tutorial on Russell Stannard's excellent